Wildflowers at Rancho Cañada del Oro

The rains are over, and the wildflower season has started in earnest. I'm in the middle of getting ready for Going Native Garden Tour next Sunday and worked in the garden for many hours yesterday. But today I just couldn't resist the invitation to participate in a wildflower hike to which I'd been invited by Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST):

The mission of the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) is to give permanent protection to the beauty, character and diversity of the San Francisco Peninsula and Santa Cruz Mountain range. POST encourages the use of these lands for natural resource protection, wildlife habitat, public recreation and agriculture for people here now and for future generations.

After we'd parked, the POST staff told us a little bit about Rancho Cañada del Oro, which was aquired by POST in 1999 (read this press release to learn more). When the property, a former ranch, became available, plans already existed to divide up the land into small ranchettes, and with Silicon Valley booming, and a golf course close by, the ranchettes could have fetched top dollars. Fortunately, a coalition of agencies collaborated with POST, so we now have this (click any photo for a larger view)

Majestic old oaks dominate the landscape (instead of noveau-Tuscan mansions). The preserve is now part of the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority and a popular destination for hikers, bikers and equestrians.

Before we left on our wildflower hike, we each received a beautiful full-color pamphlet of the most frequently found wildflowers, prepared by photographer Judy Kramer.

We headed off shortly after 10, and the group split quickly. Some had come for the hike, they wanted to breathe the brisk morning air, get their heart pumping, and feel the exhilaration that comes with going uphill at a fast clip. The rest of us savored the walk, stopping here and there and learning about the flowers from Judy. Above, some beautiful, very large manzanita and oak.

Here a manzanita close-up, showing off the large berries.

As we climbed, we saw more and more wildflowers. Above, a picture of Solanum umbelliferum (blue witch), abundant along the trail as we climbed upward. 

As we entered the serpentine grassland, the spectacle started to unfold. We were actually a little early for the full flush of the spring flowers, but there was much to admire. Above, a rare, almost pure white variety of  Nemophila menziesii (baby blue eyes). 

Allium serra (purple onion, jeweled onion) vowed us all with its bright color, and Judy explained that you can rub the leave a bit for the actual smell of onion.

The Delphinium (larkspur) was also in bloom. I remembered how I'd first seen wild larkspur in Edgewood Park and could not believe such a showy plant was a wildflower. Unfortunately, it was devilishly difficult to photograph because of the breeze, but just seeing and admiring it was such a joy.

Other typical serpentine flowers included Castilleja densiflora (owl's clover) and Lastenia conjugens (goldfields), above...

... and Viola pedunculata (Jonny Jump-up or California golden violet).

Among the trees, we saw Pedicularis densiflora (Indian warrior) and the beautiful Clematis lasiantha (chaparral clematis).

We were a little sorry to get to the turn-around point, take in the beautiful view once more, and walk back down. But we were happy this piece of land had been protected and that it's now available for all to enjoy, and inspired to continue supporting POST as they work on new properties to protect.


These pictures wisper me 'summer...'
Country Mouse said…
Wow - lots of wildflowers. I myself took a little wildflower walk along Spring Trail near the UC Santa Cruz campus yesterday but the only flowers in bloom yet were buttercups, in masses in one spot. It was a lovely walk though. Thanks for sharing your walk - fabulous blooms. I have never seen larkspur over here near the coast.
Chandramouli S said…
As always I enjoy your tour posts and thank you for that. The larkspur looks cool - I mean hot :D
Sue Langley said…
I love this, Mouse, and can almost feel the sun warming me as I view all the flowers you found. You saw some good ones, ...that pale blue nemophila is wonderful and icy blue and the clematis! Fancy!
Funny how wild and wildflower photography go hand-in-hand...
ryan said…
Wildflower season seems a little late this year, I think, but it may be my imagination. In any case it seems to be arriving. That white Nemophila is really beautiful. I haven't seen it in a couple of years.
The California hills are so beautiful in the spring. Thanks for posting this.
Gorgeous! It does seem that once the sun decided to shine, the wildflowers have exploded. What a great collection of blooms! I've never seen such a lush patch of Blue Witch. We have a tiny bit here, but it tends to look rather straggly. I noticed our Goldfields are forming flower buds this morning. I can't wait!
Jean Campbell said…
What a treat to see wildflowers from the other side of the country. Larkspur and baby blue eyes are seeds we plant, not native here.
Town Mouse said…

The larkspur we enjoy when out on a hike also does not grow in gardens, it requires serpentine soil and wild conditions. As for Baby Blue Eyes, I got mine at Annie's Annuals...

Makes the hikes all the more special.